Reading time: 15 minutes
What’s the article about?
- We tell you how the interaction is built and how we communicate with the client at all stages of work on SEO
- Why “one man standing alone” and how to assemble an effective team for a project.
- We’ll analyze the role of semantics and how to conduct a technical audit of the site. How to evaluate a site, competitors and work with content.
- Why promises in SEO do not justify themselves?
- What tools we have developed and use to make recommendations.
Who can benefit from this article?
- Marketers who need a new SEO strategy for businesses.
- Owners of large and medium-sized businesses.
- Businesses that have an internal SEO department that is failing or needs to be strengthened for a period of time.
- Executives who are not getting an adequate return on the current SEO.
Who to entrust with the development of SEO strategy and implementation of recommendations is an important question for businesses. Marketers trust promotion to an agency, not knowing how it will work and what will happen next. Others prefer to hire a specialist inhouse and are faced with the fact that SEO does not work as planned. We will tell you how we work: on what principles we build interaction, assemble the team, predict the result and give recommendations.
The format of interaction with the client
We will not touch upon the stage of interaction with the client, where the client is getting acquainted with us, auditing the site, setting goals and objectives, and so on. We will go straight to the stage where everything said “before” must match the done “after”. And we’ll reveal a few of our formulas for effective relationships, proven by 19 years of experience with a wide variety of clients.
What is more important in business: technology or the human factor? The answer: everything is important. Neither should be neglected. Therefore, every project at the Ashmanov and Partners agency is not just a SEO-specialist. This is a centralized team, armed in a good sense with all the necessary equipment in the form of analytical tools. And this team covers all aspects of promotion – SEO audit, technical and text optimization, behavioral characteristics, data analytics, work with the link profile of the site, commercial elements, etc. At the initial stage, when a huge amount of work on the implementation in the client’s business, collecting statistics, analysis of indicators, working out a strategy, the formation of recommendations, a couple of specialists here can not cope. One or two experts, even the best ones, will not be able to do all the work quickly and efficiently. First, the fewer people, the more time will be spent on the analysis. Secondly, a specialist can not have the same high level in all marketing areas that are needed to fully promote. Therefore, a team is formed, the structure of which we will talk in detail below.
How is the SEO-team assembled for the project?
The quality of communication between the agency and the client plays a major role in achieving the desired results. A project manager is assigned to each project. The more comfortable the project manager and the representative of the business to communicate with each other, the better for both parties. This is why the sales team compiles a “portrait of the client” at the project handover stage so that the most suitable project manager can be chosen individually. His or her responsibilities: project management, communication with the client, document management, presentation of results.
- Thus, the agency’s main person in contact with the client is the project manager. Next, the SEO-specialist is selected according to several criteria:
- Focus and experience of the specialist: we do not overload the staff to the limit, but give as many projects, so he could immerse himself in each of them completely, and strictly control it.
- Complexity and topic of the project: we select a specialist with relevant experience and practical cases on the topic.
- The tasks of the SEO specialist: work on project optimization, analysis of competitors, search for growth points, development of the site promotion strategy, making recommendations, checking their implementation. Important: from time to time we involve senior specialists for external audit of the project. This is very useful when “washed out of sight”, or a search for new growth points.
- A separate specialist is selected for each pool of tasks:
- A business analyst analyzes and optimizes business processes and monitors KPIs for the project.
- A usability specialist analyzes problems with the site’s usability and develops recommendations for improving its usability.
- UX-tester generates hypotheses to increase conversions and conducts A/B testing.
- An analyst analyzes the algorithms of search engines in the subject of the project, analyzes data from the Laboratory of search analytics.
Link-manager solves such tasks as link installation, link control, link performance analysis.
- SMM specialist works with sites, writes and posts messages and brand reviews.
- The designer creates and redesigns prototypes of the site pages. If necessary, a developer gets involved.
- A content marketing specialist works with a copywriter to create content and develop media plans for its placement on the Internet.
- A marketer conducts a marketing analysis of the site.
There is a question: how with so many people not to get confused about who is responsible for what area of work?
The answer is simple: the customer does not need to communicate with the entire team. The client and the project manager enter into a long-term relationship, and the key to successful communication is a good relationship between them.
Opinion of an expert
Olga Sokolskaya, head of client relations at Ashmanov & Partners:
“At our agency, it is extremely rare for a project to be passed from one project manager to another, only if the project is at a standstill or the manager is not in character with the client. As a rule, the client and the project manager are considered each other’s role models, and it is difficult to change one for the other because everyone is used to each other and immersed in the project. The project manager also gets used to the project as something personal, his brainchild, and is unlikely to want to part with it.
All communication is done through the project manager. This is more comfortable for everyone: the client does not need to maintain a bunch of contacts and remember who is responsible for what, none of the specialists are not distracted from their work, especially the technical experts who are trained not to communicate with customers, but to work with the product, program, etc. If the need arises, the project manager can communicate not through a contact person, but directly with the specialists on the client side (developers, copywriters, etc.). As practice shows, this makes communication much faster.
After the initial phase of the work, getting to know the client and presenting a full SEO audit, the project manager meets with the client and discusses the strategy for promoting the project. At that meeting, a three-month work plan is agreed upon, and the format of communication with the client is discussed. Issuance and discussion of recommendations is based on sprints: usually one week, but it could be two weeks or a month, depending on how the work inside the client’s team is structured – it is important to adjust. At the end of each sprint, results are summed up and work is planned for the next sprint.
Conditions for implementation of recommendations are discussed in detail, for example, who implements the recommendations – the client or the agency, the deadline, the specialists responsible. Recommendations are also related to the usability, texts, referential environment. All this is discussed with the client. A pool of tasks is determined, which must be implemented on the side of the client and the agency. In this case, coordination with the client is carried out at each stage.
On what is based a transparent and predictable SEO?
How do you know if everything is going according to plan, what results should you expect from the implementation of the recommendations and how to analyze them? Use tools for monitoring and reporting.
The task of the agency is always to monitor the situation, give an adequate response to all changes, take action and offer solutions in a timely manner. The team monitors every day: tracking errors, the position of the site in search, agree on future plans, if necessary, issue additional recommendations.
Recommendations: where do we get them from?
The format for issuing recommendations is based on sprints: interim weekly reports, and a final report. When generating the report and recommendations, the agency shows which recommendations will lead to the growth of the project and how much traffic and sales the client will receive when they are implemented. We use a data-driven approach that allows us to show businesses and convince them in numbers what results they can achieve by implementing our recommendations.
Thanks to the work of the Laboratory of search analytics (more about it below) and the research it produces, we know exactly which recommendations will produce a positive effect for the site of a particular subject. That is, everything is not allegedly, but has a basis. Working with the platform SEOWORK we understand to what specific (traffic, business) results will lead to the implementation of recommendations. Thus we solve the problem of transparency and predictability of SEO.
Opinion of the expert
Olga Sokolskaya, the head of client services department of “Ashmanov and Partners”:
“Once a quarter or as needed (for example, after changes to the site or assortment), we refine the semantics. After the first results, for example, if we see that the query entered the top 20 and has not moved on, we understand that the page on which the query is promoted, something is missing. Then we carry out competitive analysis for point recommendations (these can be text, commercial, etc.), and conduct on-page optimization.
Reports: format and content
The format in which the agency reports to the business – a frequent problem in SEO. We are ready to adapt to the client and report on those indicators that are important to him. Therefore, the client is given the right to choose the formats that are convenient to him personally. There are generally accepted report formats, and there are clients with special report formats. For example:
We provide all clients with traffic and site visibility data, which we get from Yandex.Metrics and Google Analytics.
To track site visibility and positions, we give the client access to SeoRate.
We also set up a Power BI dashboard (online display of various data slices) for some clients by agreement. Such reports allow you to collect data from all sources (Yandex.Metrika, Yandex.Direct, Google Analytics, CRM, advertising offices of social networks, data on sales, applications, calls, etc.) in one place. And do it automatically and quickly. The customer can monitor all statistics in an online format. It is especially useful for analysis of large projects. Read more about the benefits of reporting in Power BI here.
The format of the reports should be clear to the client, but what matters is whether or not their content shows the real picture on all the key business indicators. It is not enough to report on top-level indicators (traffic, positions, visibility): we consider the number of leads, average check growth and sales volume to be the main indicators of the effect of implemented recommendations.
How do you reach an understanding with the client and make SEO understandable for him?
Each client is unique, for each of them the agency selects a format of work individually. Here are a few common types of clients who ask for SEO promotion.
Suppose a business thinks about SEO for the first time, came to us without knowing anything about optimization. In this case, we explain to him what SEO will help the business and what – can not, the basic principles, the terms of promotion.
Opinion of expert
Olga Sokolskaya, the head of client services department of “Ashmanov and Partners”:
“We understand that it’s more difficult for businesses to operate with SEO terms. To speak to the client “in the same language,” at the first meeting we conduct an express SEO training for the client – we answer questions, reveal some concepts, show how it works on specific examples. We are always ready to consult with the client and help him understand the complexities of SEO.
Another case is a client after a negative experience with a SEO agency or an inhouse specialist. For example, the site was under search engine filters. In this case, we follow a different scenario: we explain in detail, step by step, what can be done and how much time it will take.
Subject matter expert opinion
Vitaly Gvozdev, development director at “Ashmanov and partners”:
“Clients come to us who have been promoted in SEO on a low-cost subscription fee, and for quite a long time, but not with the results as desired. In such cases, we assume that the client has not received detailed data collection and analysis, sound recommendations, reports on business metrics. We can remedy this situation. If a project comes to a standstill – we use our own tools to find new points of growth.
And even if a business has its own inhouse SEO-team, for us it is not a problem to work with it, strengthening and supporting it.
Since the end of last year, clients have tended to form inhouse SEO teams. Many projects came to Ashmanov & Partners with their own inhouse team. With them, the “recommendations – reports” format did not work for one reason. The intensity and speed of work with such a team must be higher, since recommendations are implemented faster, and no one is willing to wait a month. We issued the recommendations in portions, the most comfortable format of work was weekly sprints.
Solution 1: we broke down the recommendations and gave them out gradually. This way we adjusted to the speed of the team’s work within the company.
Solution 2: for those who didn’t benefit from this either, we offered to help implement the recommendations and took over the communication with the internal teams on the client side: analysts, developers, etc. Our job in this case is to speed up implementation. We find at what stage there is a “slowdown” in the process, and eliminate it as much as possible. It is important for us to have a result, to see the matter through to the end. We can show and argue that the implementation of this or that recommendation will bring the project to growth.
The expert opinion
Olga Sokolskaya, head of client services at Ashmanov & Partners:
“We are as open as possible to the client. We communicate with him in messengers for operative communication, but all communication is also recorded in the mail, so as not to lose important information (for example, reports, summaries of meetings, etc.). Tasks and statuses are tracked in the task manager – ours or the client’s. We use the Bitrix24 system, and the client can have a personal account there to keep track of tasks and communication.
There are 7 features of the relationship between SEO agencies and the client that you should pay attention to
- We do not “grab” all the projects in a row. The number of clients is strictly controlled – from 2 to 8 per manager. Therefore, the involvement in the project is significantly higher, as there is enough time to dive into each project. If necessary, we adjust and reduce the workload.
- We forecast the result based on the client’s potential, demand and project analytics. We do not prepare forecasts at the preliminary stage, but only after studying the growth points of the project. Thus is guaranteed maximum accuracy of predictions, but does not remove the question of guarantees of promotion in general – because search engines are absolutely unpredictable, and the developers of search algorithms do not know which site will be in the top. We make predictions based on site performance and accumulated data, assign KPIs and strive for them. At the stage of selling KPI we discuss with the client the performance indicators they would like to receive reports on.
Opinion of an expert
Vitaly Gvozdev, development director at Ashmanov and Partners:
“A frequent case: clients were guaranteed results under the contract, but nothing came out. At the same time, there is always a clause in the contract that the guarantee is only valid if the recommendations are implemented within a few days. This in itself is impossible. Thus, if a client asks for a guarantee, agencies simply write such a clause and negate the guarantee.”
It’s time to move beyond the power of the human factor to the power of technology. All of the agency’s recommendations have specific, proven, studied bases. They are based on our expert knowledge of how search engines work, on an analysis of extradition and competitors. To conduct the audit, issue recommendations and monitor the state of the project, we use our own tools, developed on the technologies from the Laboratory of search engine analytics.
The search analytics lab, which forms the basis for all recommendations to clients, is our own brainchild. None of our competitors have anything like it. It allows you to consider the correlation of site parameters with ranking factors, positions in extradition and reaching the top for each topic separately. The advantages of the service: automation + comprehensive approach + accuracy.
Searchlab is a search analytics lab service, on the basis of which we issue text recommendations. In order to understand what texts the search engine prefers in your topic, you need to analyze the content of the pages that get to the top for your target requests in the required region. The analysis should identify key features of competitors’ pages, including the number of occurrences of key phrases in the text and titles, as well as the presence of additional phrases that increase the confidence of search engines to the text. For example, for a commercial site on the request “debit card visa”, these additional phrases, which are important to mention on the page will be the phrases: “annual service”, “rates”, “feedback” and others. These phrases are just as important to consider when creating content as the key phrases you are looking to promote your site for.
The built-in clusterizer allows you to correctly distribute semantics across pages and group them together. Here we determine which pages can be promoted to the top on the basis of the top search engines. The service automatically determines whether a given query cluster should be promoted on the main or inner page, whether it is a commercial or an informational query.
The LSI-analyzer will help to automate a complex text analysis. Since our experts often face the task of creating competitive texts, the team of Search Lab Search Analytics has developed a tool for LSI-analysis with the ability to configure all the necessary parameters to get the most accurate results. We have used this tool for quite a long time and successfully on our projects. More recently, our LSI-analyzer was made available to a wide audience within Searchlab.ru. Now, it can be used by all specialists tasked with creating text that will climb to the top of search engines. The service is especially interesting for informational sites and when creating longreads.
Turgenev – a service that assesses the risk of getting under the Baden-Baden, shows the problems of the text and helps to cope with them. Thanks to him you can write a benchmark text for the search engine. Many copywriters choose this tool as a cool text analyzer to fix stylistic errors, remove water and extra words. It has a lot of positive feedback from those who work with texts – copywriters, rewriters, editors.
SEOWORK is a platform for analyzing and controlling search engine optimization. To date, “Ashmanov and Partners” is one of the few companies that have received a certificate PRO on the platform.
The service allows you to estimate the potential of the project and the effect of the introduction of a recommendation, to predict how it will affect the result. For example, we have a certain category of products, we receive so much traffic for it, but we can see that its potential is much higher than what comes to our site. From that data we understand that by optimizing that category we can get that much more traffic to the site.
Auditing and traffic is not an end in itself. What’s next?
It’s important for the agency to not only bring quality traffic to the site, but also to convert it into a customer and client. To do this, we work with the entire site – looking at usability, user paths, how the shopping cart works, what marketing activities are conducted.
We also do “mystery shopping”: from product search on the site to purchase. By describing the experience of each stage right through to delivery, we look at the site from the consumer’s point of view. This is how we evaluate the entire sales funnel, which is especially important to use for large businesses.
Promotion is closely related to work on reputation and customer satisfaction, so often an important step is ORM (Online Reputation Management), PR and SMM. Also in the area of reputation, loyalty and feedback is such an important indicator as LTV (how much money each customer brings to the company). Here it is important to look at the return on all investments from the second and subsequent purchases.
- Work with the agency is built on the synergy of the human factor and technology. This is the basis of effective interaction between the agency and the client, achieving the necessary business results.
- Guaranteed achievement of any results in a search is an incorrect statement of the question. Search engines do not give a clear correlation between recommendations and rankings, you have to test hypotheses. Proper goal setting is a prediction and its real-world correction.
- All agency recommendations have a clear rationale from statistical data, practice and analytics, as well as tools developed by us for our needs. In this case, we are interested not only in just making recommendations, but also in their implementation and further monitoring of the results.
- Flexible format of cooperation and openness of the agency for a dialogue – the key to successful communication with any client. It is important to explain what we do for SEO and why. It is important to hear the client and understand what he expects to see, so that there is no effect of inflated expectations. This requires flexibility in both forms of interaction and reporting formats.